Yesterday was the first stage of the Andalucia bike race. The first day was run in conjunction with the Sierra Morena marathon. After a parade around the host city of Cordoba we set off for the 75km stage. The start was chaotic with the 1000 plus riders from the Sierra Morena marathon all trying to push to the front. The first few km's of off road were fairly tame but enabled the field to spread out. It became apparent that the Spanish riders are not the most skillful. Within the first meters of the first double track descent there were at least 5 riders mending punctures!!
Eventually the pace settled down and we began to make good progress gradually moving through the field. We were unsure of the standard of the competition in the mixed category so were keen to push on. Having never raced in a pair before and never riding with Cait it took a little while to figure out our strengths and weaknesses but we settled on the tactics of me riding in the wind on the flats and pushing Cait on the fire-road/double track climbs to keep the speed up. Although not very flattering for Cait it seemed to work very well and we were overtaking solo riders from the Sierra Morena marathon on the climbs!
The course was pleasantly surprising. I had heard stories that Spanish courses tended to be mainly fire road but it was far from the case here. The first half of the race contained loads of fast fun single track. Later in the race it got a lot more technical with large rock slabs to ride up and steep rough rocky descents. When ever we entered a technical section the Spaniards simply jumped off and walked! We rode 99% of it and were able to gain loads of time.
After 4 and a half hours we crossed the line and were pleasantly surprised to find that we had won the mixed category.... by over an hour!
That evening we donned our first leaders jerseys and shared the podium with world xc champion Jose Hermida. All in all a good day and we are very much looking forward to todays stage.
Check out my helmet cam footage from the first stage....